Auckland’s Parking About To Get A Whole Lot Worse?

16 September 2021. Scoop – New Zealand News. The Government’s announcement of a compulsory “National Policy Statement on Urban Development” to force major Councils, including Auckland, to approve the building of more intensified housing is its latest attempt to address the housing crisis. 

However, there is a hidden fishhook – parking.  

For example, Auckland is already delivering on many of the ideas the new policy is promoting. The Auckland Unitary Plan removed much of the city’s height and density rules, prompting a huge amount of additional higher-density housing and allowing more people to live in and around urban centres and public transport routes.

In the Unitary Plan, after much public feedback and worry, protections were added to provide for minimum numbers of carparks depending on where the new property was being built, but these protections are now being forcibly removed. This includes townships like Warkworth, Matakana, Kumeu, and Riverhead…. in fact all townships and all suburbs across all of Auckland.

The indicators are clear. The public’s best interests will be conclusively removed from the public office of Council.

The fish hook is, this nationally imposed rule forces the Council to accept developments with no off-street car parking – and ratepayers are to be circumnavigated from having any democratic input about how this reshapes Auckland, its suburbs and its townships into the future.

By law Auckland Council must implement this removal for minimum numbers of off-street parking and do so without any public consultation with residents and ratepayers by 20 February 2022. This is undemocratic – because residents and ratepayers are being removed from having a say.

This Government order will result in more car owners having to park on the street, further restricting traffic flows and exacerbating urban, suburban and outer township’s traffic congestion. Even how car owners charge their electric vehicles seems to have been overlooked.

The Government’s reply – leave it up to developers to provide any off-street parking or charging stations (ie: let parking be market-led by entrepreneurs, not by Council rules).

This isn’t an Auckland Council initiative, it’s coming from the government – your local members of Parliament may be worth having that chat to.

Aucklanders already have a glimpse into the future of what will happen to our public streets. Have you seen the width of the roads in new suburbs like Millwater or Milldale north of Auckland.

Some developers already exploit opportunities to build housing with no parking, bypassing planning rules by relying on private pedestrian access ways to homes.

For example, there are already developments of 20 or more houses stretching single file away from street-fronts with the last house being over 300 metres from the roadside. The only way to get to the front doors is up a set of stairs and to walk along a very narrow elongated access way. More of this type of development will be encouraged if off-street parking is completely removed. Developers will more money from adding another bedroom than another off-street parking and garaging.

Additional negative effects include reduced housing opportunities for those with mobility impairments. Narrow pedestrian ways are impractical as path widths need to be at least 1.8 metres wide to allow two wheel chairs to pass each other. Currently Council planning rules stipulate for a carparking on private property and therefore a driveway and easy to the front door.

Emergency services also face challenges. Crews cannot easily get to patients and fire hoses do not work effectively wound out over large distances. Firefighters need access ways to be at least 3 metres wide to carry in ladders or stretches. Response times are already reported to be hampered at properties with reduced accessibility.

Homeowners having to park on the street means less parking for visitors or caregivers, thereby further isolating vulnerable people. Tradespeople report having difficulty finding safe parking and grocery delivery services are the same. Even if you have done your own shopping, you still have to get it typically from a car to your house. Scarcity of parks can also create interpersonal tensions. Bad luck too if you have a second car or a family boat. 

Here’s the real kicker. All this runs in parallel with Auckland Transport wanting that street parking space for cycle lanes and bus thoroughfares. To gain those their mandate is to remove parking or restrict it.

There will be a the big difference in impact for metropolitan areas, as compared to the suburbs and rural townships, which are not as well serviced by public transport, walkways or by jobs within biking distance.

I am not against the intention of the Central Government to increase development in urban areas, particularly housing without off-street car-parking that is very close to rail stations or major public transport hubs. These property owners may not need a car, if they can get to work without one. But others simply need cars – to transport themselves, their families or even their tools of work – and Auckland parking in both inner and outer city suburbs is already under pressure. 

A blanket decree forcing Auckland City to have zero provisions for off-street parking across the entire Supercity, particularly without ratepayer input, is both undemocratic and ill-fated.